“I will fight spending cuts,” says new Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman

IN an exclusive interview after his election, mayor Lutfur Rahman talks to reporter Julia Gregory about the challenges facing Tower Hamlets council as the effects of the spending review trickles down to local government.

Mr Rahman is in charge of a �1 billion budget and has already asked council bosses to bring their plans for balancing the books to next month’s Cabinet meeting.

At his first cabinet meeting last Wednesday he pledged that he would work with people to resist government cuts.

He said: “I will be protecting front-line services and managing as far as possible the effect and impact on our staff morale and our staff generally.”

At the meeting he announced that he had asked senior staff to bring their budget suggestions to next month’s meeting to deal with the current economic crisis which means local authorities are having to make cuts.

On becoming mayor solicitor Mr Rahman gave up his seat as councillor for Spitalfields and Banglatown and now has responsibility for council services for the next four years.

Although he won the mayoral election with 51 per cent of the votes just a quarter of the electorate bothered to vote.

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Mr Rahman has also had problems filling his Cabinet as he decided to stand as an Independent candidate after his eleventh hour de-selection as the Labour party candidate.

He said: “My invitation went out to my colleagues in the Labour party the Sunday after I was elected to join.

“I invited them to come and serve the people of Tower Hamlets. The ball is in their court.

“I hope they will consider their obligation to the people of Tower Hamlets who elected them. People do come first rather than the petty and the party. I say to them come and join me.”

Mr Rahman stood as an independent after the Labour party suspended him as its mayoral candidate after a dossier of complaints was handed in to Labour’s National Executive committee.